Rodriguez: "They made love to my music, but they also made war to my music"

Rodriguez: "They made love to my music, but they also made war to my music"
Courtesy of Light in the Attic

Back in the late '60s, the singer-songwriter Rodriguez was slated to be Detroit's own Bob Dylan. Although he made a couple of terrific records, they only made it as far as the cut-out bin in the United States. Over time, however, his music caught fire in South Africa, and he became revered from afar, influencing countless revolutionary punk and protest singers through the years.

Now, this bumpy road to late-life stardom is the subject of the new documentary Searching for Sugarman, named after one of his signature songs. Rodriguez was in Minneapolis recently to promote the film, and right when Gimme Noise met him in the lobby of the W Hotel last month, it was clear this wouldn't be the typical interview.

"So Danny, tell me about yourself." he says as we sit down in the luxurious waiting area, his guitar still wrapped over his shoulder.

What is most evident about this mystery man, born Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, is that he's comfortable with his recently found fame -- it smacks with the realness only a true artist can possess.

In South Africa, his status and legend grew to cult proportions and his music remained somewhat a catalyst for the anti-Apartheid movements of the '70s and '80s. Only in a pre-internet world could the legend of the singer grow to such bizarre proportions. It was rumored that he committed suicide on stage while in reality he struggled for years working in manual labor and raising his three daughters back in his hometown of Detroit.

I ask the now 70-year-old Rodriguez about the film and remark that in a world of overnight celebrity it's refreshing to see someone with his talent finally get their due. In his black suit, long black hair and sunglasses Rodriguez has the classic rock star look but possesses a personable warmth.

Rodriguez: "They made love to my music, but they also made war to my music"

"The amount of attention is an honor. It's certainly a privilege not many recieve," he quietly ponders. "You know man I take this as 'Wow, I'm a lucky guy!' And I get to share this with my daughters which is really the biggest reward."

Indeed, the pride that beams from his daughters' faces that is one of the most heartwarming parts of the film. It's also a real tribute to the power of the man's art -- and the passion of fans who realized Rodriguez was still alive and set out to find him. Eventually, they brought him to Capetown in the '90s where he consistently has sold out theaters and arenas ever since.

"You know, I'm like Ray Charles. I love music, it's not a spectator sport," he says with a serious look in his eye. "Those youngbloods gave me life, and you know they questioned society. One soldier told me they made love to my music but they also made war to my music."

In South Africa, his fame rivals the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Though his records have resurfaced as reissues in the last decade, with Searching for Sugar Man Rodriguez is starting to finally earn a household name in the States.

Searching for Sugarman opens Friday at Landmark Cinema in Edina.

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